No, in most cases, hospitals cannot put you in a nursing home if you don’t want to be there, but they can recommend it for your continuing recovery. Hospitals can put in orders to transfer patients to nursing homes, but an elderly adult with the capacity to make their own medical decisions can refuse admission against medical advice. In very few instances, a senior can be admitted against their own volition, and involuntary nursing home admissions often involve another loved one or a third party having the power of attorney over the patient and overruling their wishes. 

Any licensed physician can make the determination that an individual lacks the capacity to make their own medical decisions. When this happens, a family member is often appointed as the legal guardian to make decisions on behalf of the senior, If no one is available to fill the role, the courts can appoint a third party to act as guardian, who will almost always follow the recommendation of the hospital and can force placement in a nursing home. Ultimately, seniors should trust their physicians’ judgment and understand that if a doctor recommends they go into a nursing home, it’s because the doctor believes the senior would benefit from the care.

Why Would a Doctor Put Someone in a Nursing Home?

People in need of skilled nursing care while recovering from injury, illness or surgery often are placed in nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities. In these facilities, patients can receive around-the-clock attention and care to help them rehabilitate and eventually return home. In some cases, people are admitted to nursing homes for the duration of their lives due to needing constant care and supervision.

Nursing homes provide access to therapy, nutrition management and skilled nursing treatment, such as managing IVs, feeding tubes or catheters. The staff also assists with activities of daily living, such as ambulation, toileting, bathing and grooming. In the nursing home, seniors have access to social activities to stay engaged with the community. People are often admitted into nursing homes after suffering a fall, heart attack or stroke that caused a need for constant rehabilitative care. 

Why Would Someone Refuse Nursing Home Care?

Many seniors resist placement in nursing homes because the lack of independence scares them. They may feel they’ll lose their ability to choose their treatment and living situation if they’re admitted to a skilled nursing facility. They may also want to get back to their old day-to-day life where they set the pace and the rules. However, if a hospital recommends nursing home placement, it’s because the individual qualifies for and requires a nursing home level of care to achieve the best long-term outcomes.

Other times, seniors refuse placement in nursing homes because they worry about the quality of care they’ll receive. Many nursing homes get bad reputations for being unresponsive, slow or even having bad food. While some skilled nursing facilities don’t provide the same degree of care as others, many provide high-quality levels of care to help seniors get back on their feet again.